It may sound like fantasy or fiction, but people predict the future all the time. Real-world fortune tellers—we call them actuaries and meteorologists—have successfully used computer models for years. And today’s accelerating advances in machine learning are quickly upgrading their digital crystal balls. Now a new artificial intelligence system that treats human lives like language may be able to competently guess whether you’ll die within a certain period, among other life details, according to a recent study in Nature Computational Science.
The study team developed a machine-learning model called life2vec that can make general predictions about the details and course of people’s life, such as forecasts related to death, international moves and personality traits. The model draws from data on millions of residents of Denmark, including details about birth dates, sex, employment, location and use of the country’s universal health care system. The study metrics found the new model to be more than 78 percent accurate at predicting mortality in the research population over a four-year period, and it significantly outperformed other predictive methods such as an actuarial table and various machine-learning tools. In a separate test, life2vec also predicted whether people would move out of Denmark over the same period with about 73 percent accuracy, per one study metric. The researchers further used life2vec to predict people’s self-reported responses to a personality questionnaire, and they found promising early signs that the model could connect personality traits with life events.